In times like these, many of us look to the heavens and a higher power to seek the answer to the looming question- are we going to be alright? We think about the state of our careers and we desperately want answers. Will our business grow, shrink, or be struck down? Will we be able to weather the storm and if so, for how long? One thing is for sure. We are not in control. It’s hard to have faith when your livelihood is being threatened. Sure, we are used to having some unknowns, but today’s economic climate really does seem to command divine intervention. It is time to have a “Come to God” meeting with yourself. All we truly know for certain is that it will be awhile before things return to normal and it’s very likely, they never will. How will this affect you and your family? Will you be able to adjust and thrive among the new challenging environment or will you be cast aside?
These are the exact questions you should be asking yourself. With so much uncertainly in the world and everything in a state of flux, no one can predict what today will bring, let alone accurately forecast the future. Adding to the stress, it is important to recognize that business owners and managers have the upper hand in deciding your fate.
With unemployment hovering around 11%, there are millions of people out of work, actively looking for a job. There are also a few million recent high school and college graduates looking to earn a paycheck. Your way of making a living has never been more in jeopardy than it is right now.
As if all that wasn’t enough to worry about, many of these newly unemployed millions will be coming for your jobs from the restaurant industry, retail stores, the teaching field, and other sales professions. These are the people who historically make great service advisors and service managers.
I believe that about 30 percent of the current service advisors and managers, have little to worry about. If you produce successful results, you should be fine. At the very least, this type of performer will be instantly hirable, should it come to that.
How do you make sure that you are part of that 30 percent? How do you stay in that group? And most importantly, if you are not currently at that level, how can you get yourself there? Praying may help. But while you are waiting for your prayers to be answered, I have an idea.
Follow the Good, Better, Best Rule. When you compare yourself to your teammates, how do you rate? How do you feel your boss would rank you? Are you good? Are you better than most of the team? Are you the best? Obviously, if you are the best, you are likely in the 30 percent who are somewhat safe. If not, you are in the 70 percent who could be in real trouble.
Making the Jump from Good to Better
This is the first step and the step where you are likely to make-up the most ground and see the most significant results. In this step, you will need to access each and every aspect of what you do. Everything from your greeting and physical approach, to how you ask diagnostic questions and your ability to set realistic expectations, will have to be examined. How you assure the customer that you can deliver on what they need, how you conduct your walk around, and your ability to make benefit-based presentations, will need to be evaluated. How do you ask for and get the sale? Can you handle objections, properly explaining your processes, setting the customer up for your call-back? Are you capable of hitting promised call-back times? Are your phone skills resulting in you fully closing, meaning everything on the repair order, at least 70 percent of the time? How do your skills fare in presenting a proper delivery? Do you follow-up with your customers? Are you effective at it?
I know this seems like a lot of questions and I know these questions cover a myriad of areas. But you cannot afford to leave any stone unturned. If you are merely good at your job, that will not be good enough to protect you when the ax falls. You will want to list out, in order, where you are weakest and begin working on those areas, immediately.
Today’s business climate dictates that being good at something is not good enough. You have to demonstrate mastery of your profession. You have to show that you are willing and capable of improving your skills to get better at your job. This will be where you gain the most ground in improvement because you will be focusing on the very basics. People who master the basics are always better. And better is what you are trying to accomplish at this point.
Work on one area at a time. Limit yourself to no more than two or three days to get better in each area. Watch the people on your team who are better than you at a given discipline. Write down what it is they do and say and memorize what you have written. As you are memorizing it, role-play. Role-play it in your mind, role-play it with others. Role-play it non-stop until you can do it yourself with little to no effort. This is likely going to require that you practice after hours with other employees. It will likely require that you role-play in the evenings and mornings when you are at home. You might have to enlist the help of family members to role-play with you. Your day will probably go from 10-12 hours of work, to 13-16 hours, or more. The good news is that once you achieve better, the time commitment required to maintain your status will ease up. Typically, you will be in “tweaking” mode because the basic skills will already be in place. You may have to commit to between 20 to 50 extra minutes per day based on your assessment of where you are and what is needed to continue to be the best. It’s a small price to pay for excellence. You are trying to create career security. This is how you earn your living. This career is what allows you to take care of your family and provides you with the opportunity to have a great lifestyle. You will have to sacrifice, but it will ease up and it will be worth it.
Going from Better to Best
We’re not done. Who wants to just be better? Being better is better than just being good, but if you are going to put the time in, doesn’t it make sense to aim for being best? If someone else on your team is making more money than you by working the same customers, on the same drive with the identical support team, they have proven it can be done. And if it can be done, why wouldn’t you want to do it, too? If you are going to be there all day long, do it! The goal is to not just make more money. The goal is also to create job security.
The basic formula for going from being better to best is pretty much the same process we discussed in going form good to better. You must list out all of the steps in your process. Identify where you are strong and where you are weak and start tweaking. What is keeping you from being the best? Your delivery? Are you smooth? Do you sound confident? Are you able to build rapport and show empathy? Are you able to actively listen and not interrupt your customers based on what you think they might say? Are you persistent enough? Are you overly persistent?
In this stage, you will likely experience subtle changes and smaller increases that come in starts and stops. This stage may take longer to realize. You are developing a nuance in your behavior. Adding polish. Discovering that it is not what you say, but rather how you say it. It is becoming more confident and self-assured. It is being comfortable in your own skin.
Role-playing, practice, and constantly searching for a better way to do things will become a way of life and a part of your job and career forever. This kind of commitment will put you in the position of being the best at what you do.
Once you accomplish being one of the best or the best, you will want to stay there. The way you stay the best is to continue to do the things that got you there in the first place. Constantly self-assess. Never stop looking in the mirror and asking yourself how you can become even better. Identify areas of strength and weakness and make the necessary changes. Stagnation is not an option in an ever changing, dynamic work environment. To be the best at something requires constant attention. Where you are strong or weak today can and will change based on the economy, world events, product changes, customer needs, management requirements, and so much more. It is forethought and preparation that makes the best the best. More importantly, it’s what keeps them there.
Two years ago, my wife just about had a heart attack when I came home and announced that I had registered for a four-day-long speaking school that was developed to help those in the professional speaking world improve their skills. It was a $15,000 investment plus travel expenses. Why, after three decades and thousands if presentations, would I do that? Because I want to be the best.
It is routine for me to practice presentations for days and sometimes months before an event. I commit hours of my time to practicing. It is not at all uncommon for me to go to an event a day early and practice my presentation multiple times in my hotel room. Last year, at the NADA event, I practiced my hour-long presentation seven times, recording it each time, listening to it and making improvements. This was a presentation that I had given many times before. Why would I feel the need to engage in this much practice? Because I wanted to show that I was the best. My hard work paid off, as it usually does. The way I see it is, if those in attendance have made the effort to hear what I have to say, I owe it to them to make it worth every second they are willing to give me.
It’s time to have your “Come to God” meeting. If you are underperforming, see the light and change your ways. Believe in yourself and take the leap of faith to go from good to better, and then from better to best. Once you are the best, Hallelujah!!! All that is left is to commit to staying the best by continually self-assessing your performance. Become a disciple of your business and your process. The good word will spread that you are the best and that you deliver the kind of service your customers are praying for. Your flock will grow, your income will multiply, your career will flourish, and your prayers will be answered! You will find yourself in the heavenly sanctuary of job security. Can I get an Amen?